Following the 2010 season, football fans in Kansas City had a reason to be optimistic going into 2011. The Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West for the first time since 2003. Dwayne Bowe led the league in touchdown receptions, while the running game ranked first that season.
Their only notable loss on the field that helped the team succeed in 2010 was Brian Waters. The Chiefs also moved forward without former offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. But that was not enough to dent the optimism.
However, when a player who is heavily relied on by his coaches and teammates falls to an injury, it creates a lot of dark moments.
From training camp to Week 17, 2011 was an injury-plagued season as nine Chiefs were placed on the injured reserve. The injuries prevented the Chiefs from repeating as AFC West champions, falling one game short to the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers, who all shared an 8-8 record with a three-way tie.
2011 was the complete opposite of 2010 when it came to injuries. The biggest injury the Chiefs suffered was the loss of Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel for one game, occurring in Week 14 against the Chargers. Chiefs fans were not used to seeing their team go through multiple injuries that created a setback.
Now, the Chiefs will have back some of their key players back while working with a lot of new faces on offense. Fans know these players can coexist and construct a team that will surprise a lot of people around the league.
Which Chiefs player returning from injury are you excited for the most?
QB Matt Cassel
Cassel has been in Kansas City for three years and has yet to play a full season with the Chiefs. He missed one game in each of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. But 2011 was tough on him, as he missed the final seven games of the season due to a hand injury.
Cassel's return is going to be interesting, whether he has No. 1 wide receiver Dwayne Bowe or not. The Chiefs should have a strong running game, like they did in 2010.
Cassel performed well in 2010 when the Chiefs finished first in rushing. This led to Cassel receiving a late Pro Bowl invitation after throwing for 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He has the offensive line and a great group of pass-catchers that can help the Chiefs move forward on offense and eventually get the ball in the end zone.
RB Jamaal Charles
Jamaal Charles was the third member of the Chiefs to suffer a torn ACL early into the 2011 season. Charles' injury was the most crucial as the Chiefs rushing game sank.
Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster each saw a lot of action, creating a running back trio, but it still lacked power without Charles.
Although Charles is returning from an ACL tear, the injury went down in Week 2, giving him ample time to recover and a better chance to play well, unlike those who suffer an ACL tear in Weeks 16 or 17. Charles will be teaming up with Peyton Hillis, who is also looking to rebound.
RB Peyton Hillis
As you just read before, Hillis wants to make 2012 better than 2011 after missing six games due to multiple injuries while playing for the Cleveland Browns. His injuries did not allow him to run like he did in 2010.
After signing with the Chiefs, he now becomes one of several players on the team looking to come back stronger. Working with Charles in the backfield might be what he needs to do to help resurrect his young career.
TE Tony Moeaki
Tony Moeaki's football career in Iowa consisted of a few injuries. In his two-year professional playing career, Moeaki has missed 17 games and has played in 15 so far, preventing him from living up to his potential.
Moeaki became the first of three Chiefs to suffer a torn ACL, which happened in the preseason finale against the Green Bay Packers. Like the running back situation, the Chiefs signed Kevin Boss to help Moeaki carry the load at tight end.
While no one knows who will start or who will get the most catches and playing time, one thing we do know is that Moeaki's playing time will be decreased a little bit.
However, it is going to benefit him because it keeps him from playing a lot, decreasing his chances of suffering another injury. With the amount success the Chiefs are capable of having, they cannot afford players like Moeaki to get hurt again.
LB Brandon Siler
Brandon Siler signed with the Chiefs following the lockout's lift. But Siler was placed on injured reserve soon after the signing.
Siler could find himself starting a game or two this season. He will certainly see a lot of playing time while rotating with Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher. The good part about Siler is that he will have Romeo Crennel, a well-respected defensive coach, to help him in his return to football.
S Eric Berry
In 2010, Eric Berry became one of the most prolific rookies in franchise history. Berry received a late Pro Bowl invitation and placed himself in the same level as other elite safeties in Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed.
Since Berry has a strong front seven, which includes outside linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, Berry should come away with some extra takeaways, thanks to the team's pass rush.
Berry was unable to showcase what more he could do in his second season in the league, but he will get a chance to show everyone what kind of an impact he can make on the game in 2012.